Chasing the American Dream in a Rural Trailer Park
In Singlewide, Sonya Salamon and Katherine MacTavish explore the role of the trailer park as a source of affordable housing. America’s trailer parks, most in rural places, shelter an estimated 12 million people, and the authors show how these parks serve as a private solution to a pressing public need. Singlewide considers the circumstances of families with school-age children in trailer parks serving whites in Illinois, Hispanics in New Mexico, and African Americans in North Carolina. By looking carefully at the daily lives of families who live side by side in rows of manufactured homes, Salamon and MacTavish draw conclusions about the importance of housing, community, and location in the families’ dreams of opportunities and success as signified by eventually owning land and a conventional home.
Working-poor rural families who engage with what Salamon and MacTavish call the "mobile home industrial complex" may become caught in an expensive trap starting with their purchase of a mobile home. A family that must site its trailer in a land-lease trailer park struggles to realize any of the anticipated benefits of homeownership. Seeking to break down stereotypes, Salamon and MacTavish reveal the important place that trailer parks hold within the United States national experience. In so doing, they attempt to integrate and normalize a way of life that many see as outside the mainstream, suggesting that families who live in trailer parks, rather than being "trailer trash," culturally resemble the parks’ neighbors who live in conventional homes.
Sonya Salamon is Professor Emerita of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Prairie Patrimony and Newcomers to Old Towns.